Syracuse (WSYR-TV) – President Obama spoke at Henninger High School on Thursday to introduce reforms his administration will be pushing for in the near future.
“It is good to be in Syracuse!” Obama said as he took the stage at a packed house.
The president acknowledged the five city schools in attendance and thanked the students for coming to his speech during their last week of summer break.
Obama said he came to Syracuse to talk about education for a reason.
“I wanted to come to Syracuse because you’re doing something fantastic here with programs like Say Yes, Smart Scholars Early College High School, these are programs that are helping Syracuse kids get ready for college and making sure they can afford to go,” Obama said.
The president says the programs are a community effort and that Syracuse has declared that, “no child in the city of Syracuse should miss out on a college education because they can’t pay for it.”
A heckler interrupted the president’s speech and was escorted from the high school. She made a comment about freeing Bradley Manning, the Fort Drum soldier sentenced to 35 years in prison for leaking classified information to the website Wikileaks.
Obama called the heckler polite and continued his speech uninterrupted.
“A higher education is the single best investment you can make in your future,” the president said. “Education is the path to the middle class.”
President Obama touched on the rising cost of higher education, saying that, “College has never been more necessary, but has never been more expensive,” Obama said. “Higher education should not be a luxury. It should be a necessity.”
The president stated that the current higher education system in the U.S. is unsustainable and that is why his administration will be proposing a new three part reform.
The first step the president hopes to implement is a new rating system for colleges and universities that will score colleges on opportunities, outcome, graduation rates, debt after graduation and jobs success out of college. Obama said he wants the ratings to affect how aid is distributed to higher education institutions
Secondly, President Obama said he wants to encourage more colleges to push and accept innovation and new technology. He sited the partnerships between colleges and high schools in the Syracuse area as an example and would like to see more online education offered in the future.
Lastly, the president said he wants to make sure graduates can manage and afford the debt for their degree. He talked about expanding the Pay as you Earn program, which was implemented two years ago.
The program creates limits for recent graduates, which say they will not have to pay more than 10 percent of their income towards school debt in a year. Obama says the program is working, but that more individuals need to be eligible for it.
The president continues his bus tour tomorrow when he will head to Binghamton.